1000memories Puts Your Family Tree In The Cloud & Lets You Cultivate It

Brother and sister walk in woodsAs we move forward with our lives and grow our families, how often are we keeping track of the past? Are we keeping track of who our grandparents were and what their lives are like? Family history is probably one of the most important things in our lives since it’s a powerful force in defining who we are. In the past (no pun intended), we kept track of our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc all through the use of paper and maybe some fancy design through PowerPoint, Excel, or even something as basic as using Notepad on our computer. But until recently, there wasn’t a way to have a universal service out there that will allow you and your family to team up and collaborate seamlessly without any regard for location or material. And that’s where 1000memories comes into play.

1000memories is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a place where you can fashion your own family tree and with each individual person, create a profile that can tell their story. In essence, you’re generating a structure Ning site, but one just around your family. The service also enables sharing to be included so that other family members who might have stories, photos, videos or other media about a specific individual can share their information easily so that the whole story is told. As 1000memories puts it best:

We help bring the albums, scrapbooks, and photo-filled shoeboxes of our lives out of the closet and into an online, shareable space where they can be remembered and celebrated, together in one place.

Here’s how it works…and I believe that this is a great way for family collaboration to happen to make sure everyone knows about their history…

1000memoriesFirst you sign up for an account with 1000memories and then you begin by building out the foundation of your family. Since you created the account, for all intents and purposes, the world revolves around you. You’re going to add your parents and then their parents, and so on and so forth. Along the way, you’ll be able to add in any siblings, their partners/spouses, children, and much more. 1000memories is quite up to the 21st century and has included options for current and former partners/spouses and you can even let the system know whether the children are from a specific individual or not. You can get as detailed as you want or not at all – it’s entirely up to you.

Once you’re done creating your family tree, the next thing for you to do is to add in details about your family members. If you remember a while ago, a Twitter account was created that repeated sage wisdom from the creator’s father and it was aptly called “Shit My Dad Says” (@shitmydadsays). Now imagine if those wonderful “sayings” were collected under the father’s profile on 1000memories. Then if the Twitter account gets deleted, at least the family will be able to recall specific thoughts from that individual. And that’s what 1000memories is looking to do. Right now, in this step where you can add details to specific family member pages, some of the types of content that can be curated include: photos, audio, videos, documents, quotes, and stories — all important things when wanting to relive the lives of your loved ones. Simply upload your materials as you would on a someone’s Facebook page and all of those family members on 1000memories will be able to offer their comments and join in on the conversation.

A couple of examples of what 1000memories is offering can be found here: Ernest Hemingway and fiction hero Bilbo Baggins.

So why is this important to the world? Because 1000memories is solving a real problem that every family has: how do you trace your roots and keep the family history intact without losing it? Technology has surely made it easier for us to keep track with one another, but it can do much more by allowing us to protect the family. And by having the service store the information in the Cloud, it won’t be lost in the event of a fire in your home, theft of your computer, old age, things getting lost in the move from one place to the next, or worse. No matter what, it will be available as long as you have Internet access. And one person won’t be the keeper of this digital family tree either because other family members can collaborate and expand it at any given time, thereby making it a true family project — because after all, we know that one person can’t know all the secrets, stories and tales of the entire clan.

And I would be remiss if I forgot to mention that 1000memories has an iPhone app available for use so that you can cultivate your family tree anytime you want. I’m willing to bet that anywhere you go, your phone will be with you. And if you happen to be going through your parents photo album or a storage unit in the next few days, one of the things you’ll want is this iPhone app where you can use the camera to capture photos and have it posted to your family tree without having to worry about finding a scanner. Like the technology that financial institutions use to record check deposits, 1000memories’ Shoebox application will make it easy for you to add old photos, stories, audio files and more to profiles and your tree.

From their website:

How does Shoebox work?
Shoebox’s edge detection and perspective correction make sure that the paper photographs you scan turn out beautifully. After scanning, you can quickly crop, straighten, rotate your photo, as well as record the stories behind the photographs by adding captions, dates, and tags.

What about the quality?
The quality of camera phones has increased so much that your handy iPhone is now as good as the clunky piece of hardware you have next to your computer, and with none of the wires or drivers. The new iPhone 4S offers a 8 megapixel camera that takes images at 2448×3264 resolution. Using Shoebox to scan a typical 4″x6″ photo produces a DPI of 550 – the same high quality recommended by scanning experts like ScanCafe.

Where are my photos saved?
Your photos are saved on your iPhone and on 1000memories where they can be shared for free with friends and family. You can also share via Facebook and Twitter. All photos on 1000memories are backed up and preserved forever through our partnership with the Internet Archive.

When it’s all said and done, if you want to take your family tree and store it elsewhere, it seems that 1000memories isn’t going to be holding your data hostage either. Their policies apparently dictate that you can simply download your information along with any photos or media content that you shared through their Shoebox application. From what that looks like, only those within your family should be the ones owning that information. But what format that can be downloaded as and whether it can be ported into a different system (if there even is one), remains to be seen.

Overall, when I set up my family tree, I think it was pretty interesting and definitely serves a purpose to the mainstream user. However, there are some lingering questions that I wonder whether they’ll be resolved:

What about other alternatives for mapping out family history? This seems to be something that doesn’t have any immediate or prominent competitors and that might give 1000memories too much leverage into thinking that they can control the market, which might affect service. And with this innovative technology, is this something that Ancestry.com will want to purchase and integrate into their system? It makes perfect sense to tie it into their platform and have it bolster the genealogy service that they offer.

Is there a way to only make your family tree private to your family or is there a way that you can control who views what information? Maybe I don’t want to have my family create a 1000memories login — maybe I’d rather give them a link where they can view the family tree, but only have my brother and first cousins be the curators and editors of this thing.

What about foreign languages? After the first couple of generations, most likely the names of family members may start to be less European and more Asian or another non-English language. I know that they accept certain European languages, but what about languages like Chinese, Japanese, or others. Do we need to take those characters and copy/paste them into the fields or can we type in the characters ourselves?

Lastly, there’s no Android app, so that might pose a bit of a problem.

But when it’s all said and done, I think that 1000memories is definitely worth checking out and paying attention to. It’ll help keep your memories safe so that they can be passed down to the next generation.

Photo Credit: hortongrou / sxc.hu

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